Marlies Sanders

Chief Officer Marlies Sanders

Chief Officer Marlies Sanders


An ACREW nominee for Chief Officer, previous deckhand, mate, chief officer, and captain, as well as engineer, stewardess, and chef – she’s done it all! Having sailed, cruised, and raced extensively in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, East Coast of the States, and in the Arctic, including the East Coast of Greenland, crossing the Atlantic 13 times, her experience speaks for itself. She loves being on the water and helping the crew become their best. Marlies kindly shared all sorts about her career and future goals with us!

Marlies, you have had an exhilarating life at sea – could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how it all began?

My first experience sailing was when I was about twelve years old, sailing with cousins on a 7m Dutch Valk on the lakes in Friesland. I absolutely loved it and when they let me helm the boat, I was smiling from ear to ear. As we did not live near any sailable water and my parents’ business prevented me from going sailing two hours from home, it wasn’t until I was 17, or 18 that I learned to actually sail; on the same boats and the same lakes. Early on, I learned there can only be one Captain on the boat (imagine four family members all trying to direct one another when coming into a small Frisian port under sail!). I sailed for years for fun without knowing anything about the yachting industry, despite some of the best yards, for both sail and motor, being in The Netherlands!

I picked up my love for travel and sailing during my studies. After an international corporate career where I traveled a lot but never saw anything but airports, taxis, hotels, and offices, I decided to take some time off to travel. After my first Transatlantic on a 54ft-er, I got into racing and found my first job in the BVI’s and I have been sailing ever since. I did everything on that first boat, except captain and stew, including setting up accounts to organising the boat. From there I continued and after a season as a boat captain on a 56ft sailing yacht I realised I had found a new career and decided to do my Yachtmaster.

My first years were much more racing and freelance-focused, with lots of race gigs, deliveries, and relief jobs. Moved to more permanent after a season in Greenland and the Arctic (fabulous!) and then in 2014 decided to get my tickets to the level of my experience and now hold a Master 3000GT. Working as a captain and chief officer on sailing and motor yachts, I have now sailed, cruised and raced extensively in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, East Coast of the States and in the Arctic, including the East Coast of Greenland, crossing the Atlantic 13 times.

Yacht racing has been a huge part of your career, racing all over the globe, could you tell us about your most memorable regatta and why?

It is hard to pinpoint just one as there have been so many incredible moments: being part of the inaugural Caribbean 600 offshore race, and doing my first paid racing job on the Rolex Transatlantic in 2005; among the most memorable ones though is definitely a start on the Swan 51 Star Chaser as bow, where we took a chance and started on port tack on the pin end (unusual, as it means that you need to duck any boats you’re on a collision course with that are starboard tack); we then crossed in front of the whole fleet and were in the lead! Exhilarating! A bonus was the regatta photographer got it all on camera from the air!

How early in your career did you start planning to climb the ranks

Quite quickly after doing that first transatlantic I decided to do my yacht master as that was the direction I wanted to go. I captained lots of smaller yachts, and once I had done my MCA Master 200 (the entry ‘professional’ Master ticket) I thought that was it for me – I couldn’t see myself running yachts over 200GT. So I didn’t start the OOW/ Master 3000 route until quite late! Your experience widens, yachts get bigger, your ambitions change, and you adapt your goals and go after it!

Working on both sailing yachts and motor yachts, which is your preference and why?

I very much started out as an avid sailor and didn’t want to move to ‘the dark side’ for quite a while. Having moved over last year to motor though, I have discovered a whole new world and am equally loving that side of the industry. And there are definitely places where a motor yacht is the better option, like Greenland where there is often either no wind or too much wind. Ultimately, for me it is about being out on the water, working with guests and seeing them have an unforgettable time, making that come true with a great team, most of all, both can be done!

What’s your favourite part about working at sea?

I love nights at sea when sailing, especially mid-Atlantic…it is something truly special to be out there, no land for miles, the milky way to look at, and the sky just one big canvas for the stars and planets, dolphins tracing like torpedos, leaving phosphorescence trails, experiencing a full moon out there – it so surprised me the first time, it is like somebody up there just turned the light on!

What motivates you?

Learning new things, discovering new places, meeting new people: I am always curious to learn more, and discover more! And something that really has inspired me in the last years is to see people around me grow and learn as well, and see a team come together.

I’m passionate about helping the crew become their best, and building a good team on board and love being on the water while doing so. Training, for both crew and myself, as well as being open to keep learning from everyone onboard, are key for me to become a better leader and a better person. And it keeps life at sea interesting!

What do you feel is the most important aspect to leadership?

For me, it is respect, communication and honesty. You cannot always agree or accommodate everything that everybody wants and taking difficult decisions is part of the job. How you deal with these and how you communicate this to your team, sets the tone for your team spirit. It is important to make people feel heard and understood, especially if you cannot accommodate things. Even though a yacht is not a democracy, you can involve crew in a lot of areas, like safety or maintenance, and create support for policies and decisions on board.

Honesty also involves not promising things you cannot deliver and delivering what you promise. And just simply, communicate. Don’t just go silent, especially in difficult situations. Even if you have to tell your team you don’t know (yet), it’s crucial to keep communicating. Like in any relationship, personal or professional, respect is the base of everything and makes communicating that much easier. It is something to be earned though and not something that just comes with the rank.

If you could offer any advice to a young crew member following in your footsteps, what would it be?

Think about what you want out of a life at sea, and why and then make a plan how to get there, and go after it! Find a mentor to help you talk through goals, decisions, or situations that you encounter so that you have a sounding board, support, and maybe even some help to make it happen. And don’t be afraid to change if your circumstances change, or you grow in a different direction than you originally thought you wanted!

And lastly, what’s next for you?

I have just taken some time off to spend with my family, celebrate some milestones, catch up on some new courses (playing on ice with floaty things but also the watercolour painting), and am just starting to look around for my next challenge that could include more polar cruising, a new build or simply a fantastic crew to work with!

Marlies Sanders

Marlies has since done the Palma super yacht racing on the bow on 40 meters and accepted a job as C/O on a 72m converted icebreaker starting in Svalbard, heading to East Greenland and maybe Arctic Canada as we speak! Congrats Marlies, wishing you all the best!

Captain Tom Crockard

Captain Tom Crockard

Captain Tom Crockard

Tom was thrown (almost quite literally) into the deep end of sailing life relatively early on in his career. Having circumnavigated the globe on a sailing yacht, to now Captaining a super yacht, there are no waters he cannot charter. Tom shares his early journey at sea and the highs and lows that come with, as well as some sage advice for our green crew.

Tom, you have had a long and exciting life at sea – could you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from?

I was born on a Sunday, 18/01/1987 in London, UK.  My parents are Northern Irish but moved to London after graduating from medical school, primarily to get away from the worst of the rain and somewhat to get away from the conflicts taking place at the time in Ireland.

I lived and attended school in Highgate, north London up until the age of 18, where I founded and subsequently ended up being the ‘Captain’ of the schools sailing team (the sailing team consisting of all the kids who didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t run, jump or participate in anything involving a ball).

I was introduced to sailing by my father Alan, who had sailed as a child on Belfast Loch.  Dragged unaware from my comfy bed, I was stuffed into a wetsuit at about age 7 or 8, plonked into a Topper dinghy, and shoved hastily off the quayside in Christchurch Harbour in Dorset being told to ‘learn to sail or swim home!’.

Growing up sailing and racing – could you tell us about that and what it is about yacht racing that excites you?

There are many elements to racing especially those that are exciting. I moved to Cowes, Isle of Wight when I was 19, which is the hub of the UK yachting & racing scene. There is the ‘team’ element to large yacht racing or the individual challenge in smaller dinghies and always a battle with the elements and conditions.

You circumnavigated the globe back in 2012 (correct me here!!) – what was your most memorable moment on that trip and why?

Almost correct, I joined an Oyster 655 ‘Sotto Vento’ as a skipper in 2012 in Hamble, UK, having been put forward for the job by the owner’s daughter who was a Yachtmaster Student of mine at the sailing school (Flying Fish) in Cowes where I was working at the time.

The yacht was all signed up to participate in the first ever Oyster World Rally – a 15-month circumnavigation westwards from Antigua to Antigua, departing in January 2013.  We departed the UK in August and headed south to join the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers)  and subsequently the Oyster fleet in Antigua for the start.

The entire experience as a 24/25-year-old, setting sail around the world and visiting places that I never even knew existed and/or certainly never thought I’d ever get the chance to visit was amazing.  People always ask where was your favourite place and it’s impossible to pick one – from the remoteness and desolation of Ascension Island to the thriving, vibrant Polynesia Islands. The scenery, experiences, and comradery made the entire trip memorable.

Could you tell us about your studies and career progression? What advice would you give for balancing work with studies?

There wasn’t so much of a balance for me.  I have never been lucky enough to find a boat that would offer to pay for my studies, courses, or training and as such I have had to quit my job in order to further my qualifications and find new employment once qualified.

I think more and more boats are now offering training incentives and with the move to online oral exams for CoC tickets finding that balance is getting easier. I gave our Chief Officer two weeks of study leave prior to her OOW oral during a quiet month in the Seychelles last year, which has been rewarded by her committing to staying onboard for another year!

When hiring crew, what attributes do you look for? And what makes someone stand out to you?

The main attribute I interview for is personality and a willingness to get involved and offer assistance to other departments. Basically NO EGO! I find it tricky to gauge professional capability over the phone and one must take an element of risk by assuming qualifications are earnt and not bought….

I have typically been on boats with small crew numbers and as such being able to get along socially is paramount. One rotten apple can be much more destructive when there are only five people!!

If you could offer any advice to a Deckhand, hoping to climb the ranks, what would it be?

Don’t be hasty – Too many junior crew are chasing titles and promotions too quickly.  Get good at your role, be an expert in your department.  Being ‘lead deckhand’, ’bosun’ etc. Is meaningless if you’re no good at your job.

The promotions will come, the salary will increase and then you’ll probably wish you’d stayed as a deckhand because you were having more fun with very little responsibility.

And lastly, I know you’re busy submitting your NOE for your Master 3000, which is a huge feat, congratulations! What’s next on the horizon for you?

Since we last spoke I’ve actually received my NOE so the next step is to book and pass the oral exam! I’m going to put off a little until 2024 when I can take some time to actually focus on studying.

Captain Tom Crockard

Congratulations Tom! We are certain that you will pass the oral with flying colours and we will certainly be rooting for you.

Captain Chris Durham

M/Y Savannah’s Captain Chris Durham

M/Y Savannah’s Captain Chris Durham

Amongst safety and modern leadership techniques being of high importance to Captain Durham, he is also passionate about developing and supporting a positive, blame-free culture on board.  He believes in the power of the individual and leads by example and through effective communication and motivation to inspire each member of the crew to draw upon their own innate ability to provide an unparalleled guest experience. We were curious as to how Captain Durham arrived at his current position and he was kind enough to enlighten us!

Chris, you’ve had a career in yachting for 14 years so far with some very prestigious yachts under your name, can you tell us a bit about how you got into yachting?

Good question! After Sixth Form College I decided to go travelling and embarked on what turned out to be a two-year trip to Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Whilst living on the North Island of New Zealand, I found myself a summer job at the local shipyard in Whangarei as a painter’s labourer and joined the team involved in their main project which was a full repaint of ‘Douce France’, a large sailing catamaran. As I started to get to know a few of the crew, I realised I was very much on the wrong side of the fence. The life of a deckhand and the lure of travelling the world seemed like it would be a lot more fun and adventurous than being stuck in a paint suit longboarding the mast and hull! After six months in New Zealand, I found myself in a non-paid deck position on a small sailing vessel for 4 months which enabled me to gain some miles at sea and build some experience. I then returned home for a short time to complete my STCW before heading off to Florida to find a job on a yacht.

What has been your favourite yacht to work on far?

Apart from my current vessel, it would have to be, the 67m Damen Sea Axe yacht support vessel. We had a fantastic team and a great working environment, and the exposure to a large array of operations and equipment including a Triton submarine, high-tech and rebreather dive set up and a commercial helicopter, not to mention the large tenders, proved to be an invaluable experience. It was a great fleet to be part of.

It seems that creating a blameless culture onboard is very important for you, how do you go about achieving that?

I have worked on many yachts where speaking up has been viewed as throwing someone under the bus. In that type of working environment, it is very hard to evolve or improve. I feel it is so important to learn every day and I find the simplest way to encourage this mindset onboard is to hold regular meetings and always hold a debrief after an operation or event. I do this by encouraging the HODs to sit down with their teams and ask a few simple questions, i.e. What worked well? What didn’t work well? What do we need to change or action to ensure we do not make the same mistakes next time? I believe it is important for every member of the crew to have a voice, and to feel confident about speaking up knowing they will be listened to. This is especially crucial where safety issues are concerned.

Was it always a goal of yours to become a Captain?

Quite early on in my career, I decided I wanted to become an Officer, but the idea of becoming a Captain didn’t come to mind until I had spent some time as Chief officer. On my first yacht, I was very lucky to work with a Chief Officer who guided and mentored me. He handed me a training record book in my first week! He really encouraged and helped me to set goals and targets, which paved the way for me to become an OOW.

What advice would you give someone following the same path?

My advice to someone starting out in the industry would be to acquire as many “superpowers” as possible! The more depth of knowledge and extra skills you arrive with, the more likely you are to choose a good program that puts time and money into training and developing the people they take on. I would advise someone a bit further on in their career to never be afraid to reach out for help. I have several mentors with whom I speak regularly and am also in contact with the client manager from our management company to whom I often reach out for assistance.

What is most important for you when looking for a job?

I think one of the most important considerations for me when looking for a position as a Captain is to find a rotational partner and program which align with my own values and philosophy. Another important factor for me is the itinerary. I find it hard to sit still and love to travel and keep moving.

What changes do you hope to see in the industry in the next 10 years?

I hope to see a professional industry that is more diverse and inclusive and places more importance on the well-being and mental health of the crew. I believe these changes will help to create happier and higher performing teams and crews, which in turn can only equate to an improved guest experience.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

Having recently completed the TCA Command and Leadership course I would like to continue to develop my leadership and management skills and am considering going back to school to complete a Masters in this subject.

Captain Chris Durham

With so much ambition and progressive thinking wrapped up in Captain Durham, we can see great contributions coming from him for the future of the yachting industry.


Jess Ayling’s Career in Yachting

Jess Ayling’s Career in Yachting

Jess Ayling is no ordinary Purser. This young lady started out as a deckhand and impressively worked her way up the ladder, gaining her OOW in the process. Her passion for her job is palpable, injecting an aspect of care into the industry that is oftentimes absent. She opens up about her career in yachting and how her journey took her from deckhand to Purser.

Did you always want to get into yachting?

Originally I considered yachting a kind of ‘stop gap’ before I went to university. I genuinely thought I would be in the industry for a couple of years. I had no idea the journey I was about to undertake. Thirteen years later I’m still here and I have no regrets.

What made you choose the deck route vs. interior when starting your yachting career?

There was no question that I would go the deckhand route when I first got into yachting. Growing up sailing, diving and driving boats,  it was a complete no brainier. Back in 2008, it was still quite uncommon to have female deckies. The yacht agents tried to convince me I should go for deck/stew roles. The best piece of advice I was given was to stick to my guns and tell them I only wanted to be considered for a full deck role. After being told I would struggle, I proved them wrong by having seven solid job offers after 2 days in Antibes, I joined my first yacht a couple of weeks later in Mexico.

What was it like working your way up on deck?

It was so much fun, I loved the comradery that comes with being on deck. I learnt to be tough and take a lot of jokes, however, at the same time I have only ever felt truly respected by the men I have worked with. Unfortunately, I know this is not always the case, and misogyny is still very prevalent in Yachting. As a female, I felt things get slightly more difficult when I wanted to start climbing the ladder and asking for more responsibility. There is a huge appeal of having a female deckhand. However, they become more sceptical when it comes to a female in a leadership role over a team of men. You certainly have to work twice as hard, study and get all your tickets before you are taken seriously.

Tell us what made you transition from a Second Officer to a Purser Role?

I was in a time of my life where I was unsure what direction I wanted to take in yachting, I loved being Second Officer however I knew I did not want to become a Captain. I had been playing with the idea of being a Purser as there are many transferable skills. I Spoke to one of the lovely ladies at Wilson Halligan for some advice, and they gave me the courage to go for it and put my CV out there.

Who has been a mentor/support for you in your yachting career?

My current Rotational Captains have been an invaluable part of my career growth as Purser and I have a great working relationship with them both, they are so encouraging. Throughout my entire career my sister, Nicki Ayling, who was also in the yachting industry for many years has always been someone I’ve looked up to as a strong female dominating in a male field.

What challenges do you face working as a Purser?

The past couple of years of ‘COVID madness’ has been extremely challenging as a Purser, I feel like I have learnt so much in a short space of time. I have learnt to prioritise and handle anything that is thrown in my direction and I simply do not sweat the small stuff anymore. Another huge thing I have to consistently work on is handling my emotions in a high-pressure role. I really care about my job, and the crew, but sometimes you have to try and detach as you can get overburdened by others’ expectations of you. When you are under pressure it’s easy to feel like this.

The only other huge challenge I face is coming down for lunch without being bombarded with questions about crew flights… but I guess that comes with the territory.

How do you feel about the future of the industry?

I am hoping to see some positive sustainable changes as we become more aware of the impact our actions have on the planet. COVID has made people evaluate what is really important.

What has been your favourite thing about yachting throughout your yachting career?

There are too many highlights for me and I have been to some unbelievable places and had unforgettable experiences. My absolute favourite thing is the people I’ve met and knowing that I now have friends all around the world to visit (when we can all travel again).

What is next in the pipeline for you?

Yachting has been my life since I was a green deckhand at the tender age of eighteen. I am currently lucky to be employed on a fantastic vessel so I’m really happy where I am right now. If and when things change I would still love to work around the industry somehow although I am not sure in which capacity.

What advice would you give young ladies looking to start their yachting career with regards to which path to take?

I would say I am a testament to the fact that if you are not sure which direction to go, you can always change your mind later on. A career in yachting is incredible and if you work hard you will reap the rewards, so go for it!

It’s clear that we can expect great things from Jess. As for her career in yachting, I doubt we’ll see the last of it for some time to come. Thanks for making the industry a better place Jess!


Luke Humphries

Captain Luke Humphries – On board Superyachts

Captain Luke Humphries – On board Superyachts

Luke is an  Australian Master Mariner with 25 years in the game (time flies when you’re having fun!). He began in 1995 as a Deck Officer cadet in the Australian Merchant Navy spending 8 years on a variety of vessels from Tankers and Container Ships to Ferries and Bulk Carriers. This lead to time in the Oil and Gas Industry which he also continued during periods of relief work in the early days of his yachting career. For the past 17 years, he has worked in the Yachting Industry on reputable Charter and Private yachts cruising extensively worldwide. Today Luke enlightens us about his experience and journey on board Superyachts.

Your career has been long and exciting, can you tell us a little about your background and where you’re from?

I’m Australian and grew up in Tasmania spending much of my youth in a little fishing town called St Helens on the East Coast. At school, I was a jack of all trades, master of none and had no idea what career I wanted to pursue. In year 11, I saw an advert in the Australian Newspaper for ‘Careers at Sea’ with a Global mining company ‘BHP Billiton’ where they were offering cadetships for Deck and Engineer Officers, and so I started looking into it. The idea of travelling the world and training as a Deck Officer caught my attention. I would be responsible for navigation, fire, safety and medical care all whilst being paid for it! At the end of year 12, I applied to a shipping company ‘ASP Ship Management’ and was accepted in their cadet intake for 1995.

Coming from the Australian Merchant Navy, what did you find appealing about making the move to on board Superyachts?

The change was huge, I’m not going to lie. I had worked on a variety of Cargo and Passenger ships as well as spending time in the Oil and Gas industry. I worked my way up to Chief Officer but yes, yachting was a little different. Friends of mine who I studied with as Engineers found the yachting industry a few years after we graduated in the late ‘90s. They would come back to Tasmania and tell stories of Fort Lauderdale and Antibes, the money, travel and lifestyle. They were doing extremely well and some of them were working as couples with their girlfriends from college days. My girlfriend at the time (now wife and partner of 19 years) and I spoke about the idea a few times and it was really her idea to take the plunge. She was finishing University that year and so we packed up and headed to Fort Lauderdale the following February. The original plan was to spend two years working on yachts to travel and save money for a deposit to buy a house back in Australia. As you can see the rest is history!!

How would you describe your favourite part about a career on board Superyachts?

It’s the thrill of not knowing what’s going to happen next, who you will meet, where you will travel. Also the exhilaration of pulling off the most amazing and impossible plans for the guests at the drop of a hat. It’s one of the most satisfying things for me, knowing you’ve played a part in bringing it all together by providing a special experience and blowing them away! It’s amazing!

You’ve been to some incredible destinations in your time, can you tell us about your most memorable/favourite destination and experience?

One of the most memorable was diving with a previous Owner, a drift dive on a reef shelf in the Los Aves Archipelago off the Venezuelan coast. The Archipelago was amazing, totally uninhabited and the dive spectacular in itself but, as we were diving, we heard a pod of dolphins calling nearby. We didn’t see them until almost the end of the dive when they came out to see who was playing in their backyard, amazing 🙂

What challenges do you face when travelling to remote destinations on board Superyachts?

Logistics is always so key in planning successful trips in remote locations. Typically you’re on your own so you need to think of the worst-case scenario for pretty much everything, communications, provisions, medical aid, transport, stores and spares etc. The key is having an experienced team on board who can brainstorm and draw on their collective experiences to work through and mitigate the issues as best as possible. Curveballs will always come but if they didn’t, it wouldn’t be yachting now, would it!?

As a Superyacht, what additional pressures do you face for navigating during COVID?

COVID has been extremely tough on everyone and the world is no longer the same as a result. The biggest challenge has been managing the crew during long periods away from home and listening and supporting them as much as possible in dealing with the issues the pandemic has brought to each one of us. It’s easy to forget about COVID when onboard in our ‘yacht bubble’ and in many ways, we are very lucky, however, we all need to be reminded now and again not to get complacent on board or at home in order to protect our work colleagues and families, and to manage the owner’s expectations. I feel that we are not out of the woods just yet and will be feeling the after-effects of the pandemic for years to come.

What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of your career on board Superyachts?

I would say it’s being in a position to mentor and following the rise of the careers of those who have worked with me previously. Seeing them grow and develop from green crew to senior crew of the highest calibre and knowing you’ve played a part in that is the biggest reward.

What has been your drive for your career on board Superyachts? Did you have a mentor?

We all know that yachting is infectious and my experience is no exception. I never expected to be in it for the time that I have, however, 19 years after first dock walking in Fort Lauderdale, here I am! I have had a couple of mentors over the years and they know who they are. The one thing I will say though is that you never stop learning, every day is different and everyone you meet can teach you something.

Given the opportunity, what advice would you give a green deckie starting out in yachting who dreams of Captaincy?

Take your time, listen well, work hard and learn your craft. Soak up as much knowledge as you can from those around you, be respectful, stay true to yourself and enjoy the ride. Don’t rush and aspire to the dizzy heights before you’re ready because the easy part is getting the job, the hard part is keeping it!

And finally, what’s next for you?

The pandemic has meant extended periods away from home the past 18 months, so trying to balance work and family life and reconnect with family and friends is at the top of my list 🙂

Luke Humphries

Luke’s proven track record for successfully exceeding expectations is reflected in his history as a sought after Captain who is admired by all of those who know him, however, this is not something he takes for granted. Bringing enthusiasm, positivity, professionalism, and drive to the forefront, Luke takes pride in maintaining a vessel and her extended operations to the highest of standards. A plethora of in-demand qualities, a role-model to many, and a true industry leader; this is a Captain to aspire to.

It was an absolute pleasure chatting with you, we wish you the very best on the rest of your journey on board Superyachts!


Captain Liz Brasler

Leaders in Yachting with Captain Liz Brasler

Leaders In Yachting with Captain Liz Brasler

Passionate about the yachting industry, professional achievements, and personal development, Virtual Pursers are focused on keeping everyone in the loop and encouraging our industry peers to reach for the stars. With our new and exclusive Q&A segment, we sit down each month to discuss career development and hot topics with captivating industry leaders in yachting, providing personal insight through the eyes of those with experience. Leaders in yachting play a vital role in guiding the future of the industry; we are thrilled to dive into their distinctive narratives and find out what is next.

This month, we have the privilege of chatting with Liz Brasler on her inspiring journey to becoming Captain.

Feel free to comment below!

All leaders in yachting have to start somewhere. How did your career begin?

In February 2006 I had just arrived in St. Maarten after another Atlantic crossing aboard my parent’s Sailing Yacht. I had completed my schooling and had read every book on board. I gazed out at the yachts moored near the bridge and wondered what it was like living on something that big compared to the boat I grew up on since the age of 9. I assembled a little resume, you could hardly call it a CV, with the most relevant qualification being PADI Divemaster. I walked the docks at Isle de Sol, and one Captain overheard my conversation. He chased after me on his bicycle as I ran for my RIB that I had left at the dinghy dock. (Access was strictly controlled from land, but arriving by boat was totally normal for me, I was not being sneaky) John was very kind and offered me a temporary deckhand job provided I could quickly do my STCW modules. Enter Jan and Veerle from MSWI who had a no show on the day the course started. I was accepted on the course and the yacht.

Did you always dream of becoming a Captain?

When I first joined yachting I did not think of becoming a Captain, however, as time went by, I found myself wondering what I would do in a particular situation if I was the Captain and explored the possibilities.

How long did it take you to get your Master 3000 and where did you do your training?

If you count my time on that first yacht, through M/Y A, and all the others, it took me from 2006 till 2019 that’s 13 years, 8 of them with a Chief Mate 3000t ticket.

I did training at so many schools if you include the RYA stuff. Honestly, the hardest modules for me were Stability and Celestial, and I passed those with self-study. I found a heap of educational videos online and knuckled down to understand them completely in every way instead of exam-cramming.

Being a female leader in yachting, have you encountered obstacles along the way?

I think all of the usual problems a woman expects. Girls reading this who are thinking about this career must know that everything you do, must be done 4x better than your male counterparts, no matter how unfair it is. The upside is that as a woman you can deal with that unfairness better It’s sad but true, the expectation of failure is higher if you are female.

What have been some of your career highlights?

Obviously passing my Master’s Oral Exam ranks high among them, but otherwise just personal milestones and small successes.

Describe some positive influences you have had in your career?

I never googled other female leaders and Captains, honestly, the most positive inspirations were the new crew just setting out who asked questions and seemed inspired by me, when in fact I was inspired by their energy and optimism.

Have you had any mentors along the way?

No, unfortunately not. I have heard of some though and envy the ladies who have had them

What advice would you give future leaders in yachting contemplating a career path to Captain?

Try to find a boat where you will be mentored. It’s a lonely path when you go alone.

Where to next for you? What’s your ultimate dream job?

Next? Well with Covid all around our plans will need to be even more fluid than usual. My partner and I will both be looking for a new position taking into consideration the current global pandemic and restrictions.

Ultimate dream job?

That’s a tough one as it very much depends on the vessel and situation. Either a couples position with my Chef partner, on a research or owner only, adventure yacht or joining a  new build and setting up a vessel in the shipyard which is always an exciting challenge.

Captain Liz Brasler

Liz has successfully managed to hold her own in the industry and her hard work has paid off. She is an inspiration to future leaders in yachting everywhere